The problem:

You love your hobby. You spend a lot of time thinking about it, and you plan an amazing amount of your life around it. Unfortunately, you also spend a lot of money. You’re constantly buying specialty products from specialty retailers, and your bank account is looking thin.

Given how much money you’ve spent on it, you wonder if you’re really getting the best bang for your buck. Are you working with the best vendors? Are you buying the best products? You can look online for reviews, but the reviews are frustrating and incomplete. Also, it’s really unclear who exactly is putting them up.

Potential solutions

You ask your friends: they try to remember what they bought, and if they liked the retailer. But did they get the best possible deal? Do they remember everything that they bought?

You ask the Internet: you ask the internet, and you may or may not get a response. Is the response legitimate? How do you compare multiple responses?

My solution

My free Google Sheets add-on allows someone to easily process receipts and invoices through OCR. They take a picture, use the OCR I recommend to process the picture, and use my add-on’s tools to quickly clean the scan. Then they use my add-on to tag the line items using your own-self created categories. Most importantly, they’re prompted to add reviews for the vendors and line items in a few standardized categories.

All receipts and invoices are stored directly in Google Drive, and can be filtered, sliced and diced, and analyzed in many ways. For example, it’s possible to isolate reviews by vendor, reviews by item, prices by item, or prices by date. Because the reviews and pricing is standardized, it’s easy for friends and fellow hobbyists to compare information. You can link other people to your database using standard Google Sheets sharing, or just send an email with the spreadsheet attached.

A well-organized hobbyist group (or even not so well organized one) can easily compile an internal database of vendor reviews, item reviews, and prices. None of the information goes to external servers, and the process is entirely controlled by the user. It’s all your data to work with. Oh, and did I mention the add-on is free?